“Why Me? Why This?”
Why do I think I’m in a suitable position to document how difficult (or otherwise) it is for a driver to work their way up the motorsport ladder? After all, I have no experience of being part of a paddock before, so I don’t have any experience I can pass onto you readers. Yet I speak about my previous racing experience, so I can’t be a complete novice, which is what I’m painting myself out to be? What exactly is my racing history, and why do I think that I’m an ideal testbed for other novices to maybe learn from in the future?
My first memories of driving go-karts are a little foggy, as they happened the best part of 10 years ago. Whilst I don’t remember setting the world alight with immediately blistering times, I do remember the elation that I felt after getting out of the kart. Those occasions were few and far between, however. Extremely few, in fact, as I can only think of three occasions between the ages of 9 and 11. That didn’t stop me from catching the bug, though, as I spent the next few years dreaming of excuses for my parents to take me to the track.
I didn’t start regularly karting until about 5 years ago, then, when I was about 15. The Duke of Edinburgh award is fairly well known here in England, where it is basically a programme that aims to help prepare young people for adult life. When I took part, there were 3 main sections: sport, volunteering, and learning a skill. For me the sport and the volunteering sections were easy, as I’m a keen cricketer and coached a little. Finding a skill to complete was tricky, until I read one of the items on the list: Go-karting. Being forced to go to the track every week for three months? Sounded like hell, but I was sure I could endure the hardship.
It was during those three months that I improved to a slightly-above-average standard, and so I thought I’d enter a competition that was being run by the company that owned the track. I breezed through the qualification rounds, and was really quite confident going into the day of the finals, but it was the sort of confidence only naivety would create. Almost every single one of the 29 other drivers had their own suits, helmets, gloves, the lot. I didn’t, I just wore what they gave me. Safe to say it didn’t go so well, but still my hunger to get quicker didn’t wane.
The next few years went by with semi-regular practice and the occasional local competition, but nothing serious. That changed in late 2018, though. October 2018 was when I first went to university, and entered my first championship. I went from mixing it with middle-aged blokes on a Friday night, to racers around my age, yet accomplished in their own right. I was up against British champions, world champions, Formula 4 drivers, and even one guy who’s competing in British Formula 3 this year. Safe to say it was the deep end!
Whilst initially I was a long way off the pace, I also think last year my learning curve was the steepest it had ever been. During a six round championship I went from 14th in the first round, to having three consecutive fourth-placed finishes, even taking a fastest lap in the final at the fifth round. After all of that, I somehow managed to finish second in the championship. Second! Safe to say last year was my most enjoyable so far behind the wheel.
This year is different, however. Due to various reasons I haven’t gone back to university, so I’m without competition. Something that I am doing now that I wasn’t at university, though, is earning money, and that got me thinking. I want to keep improving myself as a driver, but I feel like I’m probably fairly close to my potential in a hire-kart, so I need to step things up. Therefore, I want to use what disposable income I do have to go racing for real.
So that’s my racing career to date. I’m not a complete novice, but I’m not the best in the world by a long shot. I’d say I’m good. Just being good doesn’t satisfy me, but I feel like it does give me some valuable experience on this journey over a complete novice. For example, if an opportunity presents itself, I feel I’m in a position where I have enough ability to not completely embarrass myself! After all, writing a blog means I talk a lot of talk, so at some point I’ll have to walk the walk. So if places heightened expectations on me, why would I write the blog?
Whilst there are thousands of racers out there, not many of them actually talk about how they got to where they are now: what skills they thought they needed, what skills they didn’t think they needed but really did, what eye-opening experiences they had, what mistakes they made etc. What I want to do is be that person, so that future racers can learn from my experiences. After all, one way of making racing more accessible is by making it cheaper, and whilst I can’t dictate the actual cost of entering races, I hope I can at least stop drivers from spending their hard-earned racing budget on experiences that won’t necessarily further their racing careers.
That’s the aim at least. So far, we’re ten weeks in to this journey, and whilst I’ve made some lifestyle adaptations to maximise the little ability I have (click here and here for more on these), alongside looking at what race series I might enter in 2021 (to read further on this click here and here), I’ve not actually visited the track at all this year, probably the longest period of time I’ve gone without karting in some time! Don’t lose all hope, however, as there may be a big event coming soon. My #RacingGrind might actually feature some racing!
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